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Default BioWare - Q & A @ NowGamer

March 13th, 2009, 02:43
NowGamer has an interview up with Bioware's Dr. Ray Muzyka on multi-platform game development, and past, present and future Bioware games:
Do you miss those old, ‘hardcore geek’ games you used to make for the PC?
No, I think we’re still making them, but we’ve augmented them, we’ve evolved them and we’ve taken them into a new direction. They are, at their core, the spiritual successors to the stuff we used to do. It definitely has a lot of parallels. The pillars are still the same – exploration, progression, customisation, combat and story. We’ve had to evolve along with the systems. PCs are a lot more interesting and technically more capable than they used to be, just as console systems are. The PlayStation 3 is a really amazing platform to work on, so is 360. Wii is as well. All of them are really advanced relative to the systems of 10-20 years ago. That’s why I think it’s exciting to be developing on any system right now in the videogame space….
How do you think advances in development technology have affected your approach to game design?
The technology is an enabler that allows the emotion and the artistic vision to be delivered. It’s no longer a technology challenge to try and make the [development] architecture deliver, and squeezing every last pixel out of it. It’s more of a challenge artistically. Can you make an experience that moves people and delivers emotionally powerful content that makes people feel that there’s an emotional vision and a point to what they do. I think that’s ultimately what our vision as a studio is – to deliver genuine emotion, and to make people feel something.
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March 13th, 2009, 02:43
Wow, thats sad. It also explains so much. I'd go back to those old school games in a second compared to their 'evolved successors'.
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March 13th, 2009, 18:20
Well, though I suspected all along that the information we got from Bioware devs about Jade Empire and Mass Effect being deliberately ENTIRELY different games - was biased blindness - it's nice to get confirmation from the horse's mouth.

So they ARE their vision of evolved Bioware games - and as such, they're exactly what I think of them. They're dumbed down mass market titles, and the leaders of Bioware consider them a genuine evolution over Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights.

I guess when they speak of Dragon Age as a genuine "kick ass - hardcore - taken to the next level" CRPG - we know what to expect
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March 14th, 2009, 00:33
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I guess when they speak of Dragon Age as a genuine "kick ass - hardcore - taken to the next level" CRPG - we know what to expect
That's not exactly fair. What are they supposed to say, exactly, when presented with such a question? If you're not inclined to generally take marketing-speak at face value, then taking it as such here just so you can get in a jab is a bit disingenuous.
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March 14th, 2009, 01:07
Originally Posted by Dgaider View Post
That's not exactly fair. What are they supposed to say, exactly, when presented with such a question? If you're not inclined to generally take marketing-speak at face value, then taking it as such here just so you can get in a jab is a bit disingenuous.
What are they supposed to say?

That's pretty easy, actually.

EXACTLY what they think is the case, and nothing else.

If you think I go around waiting to get in a jab "just because", then I'd be curious to know what you think I'd gain from such a profound waste of time. I can think of little else less beneficial than such behaviour.
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March 14th, 2009, 01:22
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
What are they supposed to say?

That's pretty easy, actually.

EXACTLY what they think is the case, and nothing else.
Uh-huh. So even though he says that modern systems offer us more tools for storytelling, OBVIOUSLY what he meant was they were dumbed-down for the mass market… and this isn't your own biases speaking?
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March 14th, 2009, 01:43
Originally Posted by Dgaider View Post
Uh-huh. So even though he says that modern systems offer us more tools for storytelling, OBVIOUSLY what he meant was they were dumbed-down for the mass market… and this isn't your own biases speaking?
I assume people mean what they say, because I can't know each and everyone personally - nor do I have the resources to dissect their words to discover their actual meaning.

What I'm referring to is the information we got from one of you Bioware developers recently, stating that Jade Empire and Mass Effect were not meant to be spiritual successors to past games - and were IN FACT never intended to be anything but action heavy games with light CRPG elements.

That doesn't exactly correspond well with what's said in the interview quoted here, and as such I can only assume that they WERE meant as spiritual successors - because that's what he's saying.

The dumbed down mass market thing is 100% my own opinion, and I don't believe I've claimed anyone from Bioware openly admitted that. That said, we did have Patrick Weekes (IIRC) saying something which could be interpreted in that way, but with sufficient loyalty to not be blatant about it.

It's beyond me why you think I'm claiming your boss is suddenly being open about dumbing down games. He's being asked about whether he misses hardcore geek games - and his response is that you're still making them. That's about as direct a conflict with reality as you can experience in this industry - so I would never claim he was being honest about anything.

I don't expect you guys to openly admit how you're compromising your games to make them sell. That certainly wouldn't be what I would consider standard practice in this industry.
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March 14th, 2009, 02:41
Originally Posted by Dgaider View Post
That's not exactly fair. What are they supposed to say, exactly, when presented with such a question? If you're not inclined to generally take marketing-speak at face value, then taking it as such here just so you can get in a jab is a bit disingenuous.
Disingenuous as meaning calculating, insincere, not candid or straightforward? When referencing someone’s comment about what you even call market-speak? That’s pretty funny.
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March 14th, 2009, 04:24
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
It's beyond me why you think I'm claiming your boss is suddenly being open about dumbing down games. He's being asked about whether he misses hardcore geek games - and his response is that you're still making them. That's about as direct a conflict with reality as you can experience in this industry - so I would never claim he was being honest about anything.
They not hardcore enough for *you*, yes I get that. Considering that Mass Effect was still treated by most of the media as a hardcore RPG (if you don't believe me, by all means read some of the reviews) that says a lot about the tolerances of the casual audience (if you want to call it that). Not hardcore to you, but plenty hardcore to them.

But you think Ray should have gone on to say that our latest games aren't as hardcore as they once were, that they're made for a different audience. Fair enough. I'd say that, from Ray's (and perhaps most peoples' perspectives), Dragon Age is still pretty hardcore and we're "still making" that, so I'm just not sure where the sniping comes in. Ray's as sincere as they come, and just because his definitions may not match your own does not mean that there isn't a spectrum to the "hardcore games" that Bioware makes.
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March 14th, 2009, 09:18
Originally Posted by Dgaider View Post
They not hardcore enough for *you*, yes I get that. Considering that Mass Effect was still treated by most of the media as a hardcore RPG (if you don't believe me, by all means read some of the reviews) that says a lot about the tolerances of the casual audience (if you want to call it that). Not hardcore to you, but plenty hardcore to them.

But you think Ray should have gone on to say that our latest games aren't as hardcore as they once were, that they're made for a different audience. Fair enough. I'd say that, from Ray's (and perhaps most peoples' perspectives), Dragon Age is still pretty hardcore and we're "still making" that, so I'm just not sure where the sniping comes in. Ray's as sincere as they come, and just because his definitions may not match your own does not mean that there isn't a spectrum to the "hardcore games" that Bioware makes.
This isn't about me - and you're the one sniping and being personal.

I'm a pragmatic person, which means I try my best to deal with reality - and personal observations mean very little in a debate - which is why I avoid them whenever possible.

I've never met Ray, so I wouldn't even attempt to judge him in a personal fashion. I don't judge people in general, actually, because I have a somewhat uncommon tolerance for even the lost causes.

However, that doesn't make me blind to reality - and it's supremely obvious that a representative like Ray must try to maintain the integrity of the image of his company. I don't blame him for that - that's literally his business. But it remains a falsehood that recent games are anywhere near as hardcore as they used to be - and no matter how you want to pretend otherwise - the facts remain.

Anyway, you're talking about games being hardcore enough for a casual audience, which without personal bias against you, is pretty much the same as not being aware what hardcore means and why the term is the exact one being used.

It's not relevant how the media has been treating Mass Effect, because that in itself has nothing to do with what it actually is. The media has been changed just as significantly as the audience has, and they most likely feel obligated to mirror the thoughts of the majority. That's how the media tends to work, anyhow.

The games have changed and that's BECAUSE the market is now largely casual - which is why much less complex and intricate games like Mass Effect are being received so warmly. Note that I don't think Mass Effect is bad, or that it should have been different, as that's not up to me - nor do I expect Bioware to care enough about the minority hardcore audience to lose money. However, by cold and neutral observation, Mass Effect is MUCH less hardcore than, say, Baldur's Gate 2.

Dragon Age is something which remains to be seen, and the answers in the interview were obviously not referring to the future - but everything since the "old hardcore geek" games of the past.
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March 14th, 2009, 11:38
DArtagnan is fighting windmills again …
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March 14th, 2009, 12:27
Originally Posted by Gorath View Post
DArtagnan is fighting windmills again …
That must be a german expression
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March 14th, 2009, 13:00
No, it works in English. At least, down here.

-= RPGWatch =-
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March 14th, 2009, 15:01
The expression is "tilting at mills." Don Quixote was a crazy guy who would see Wind Mills as being monsters, and would charge at them with a lance.

So you are being called someone who is crazy and likes to waste time on futile activities. I don't think you are crazy and this exchange of information to me has been informative, anything but futile.
Last edited by Unrestigered; March 14th, 2009 at 15:04. Reason: He wasn't actually a guy, but a character in The Man of La Mancha if my memory serves me correctly, written by a Servantes?
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March 14th, 2009, 15:36
Haha, yeah, I figured it was something like that.

Well, to each his own.

I guess to question the motivations of developers equates to chasing imaginary monsters to some - but I can't say I get the connection.

I suspect that just being a developer is sort of like being a hero to certain fans, but to me it's just another job and doesn't exactly absolve you of any potential mistakes or unfortunate priorities. That's not to say I don't respect their craft - and this is more about my attempt at representing the minority.
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March 14th, 2009, 16:11
I don't think of Baldur's Gate as being geeky or even hardcore. The games before Baldur's Gate may have been geeky or hardcore - several people here (and in other places on the net) seem to be yearning for a game like Arena, or Daggerfall, or one the SSI Goldbox series games. Believe, I have tried playing both Arena and the demo for Daggerfall and some of the older games like Ultima VII or VI. And quite frankly, I don't understand your fascination of these games. The controls are rather horrid, the graphics are sort of meh - even by mid 1990's standard, and the combat is very hard. It is not fun to get killed at the beginning of the game, now, is it?

In my opinion, everyone expects Bioware to make another BG game or another KOTOR game. Face it. It is not going to happen. I'm sorry to be so harsh here, but your expectations about this is not coming true…

With both Jade Empire, Mass Effect and now Dragon Age, Bioware has been and are taking enormous chances, making other games than the D&D license games that would have given them a secure income. And as for the critique about Bioware making different games, I don't get it. People complain about EA making the same game year after year after year - they just change the title.

As for Ray's comments:
He is saying that their games is the spiritual successor to Bioware's earlier game; he is not saying that they are exactly the same, but that they have taken them in a new direction. You may not like that direction. And that is fine.

If we take a look at Fallout 3 say, it is clear to me that you can play this game in two styles, one where you just around shooting at things and one where you talk to everyone and learn about things. The problem here is that most reviewers these days seem to be young kids who play the game on the xbox 360 —- who just likes to run around shooting things. Mass Effect can be played the same way.

Personally, I have no problem with that people can play a game according to how they want to play the game.

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March 14th, 2009, 16:18
If we all work on the assumption that Dr. Ray is smarter than people without a Doctorate and understands the definitions of the terms he uses, we at least all be on the same page.

Hardcore (from dictionary.com)
n
1. The most dedicated, unfailingly loyal faction of a group or organization: the hard core of the separatist movement.
2. An intractable core or nucleus of a society, especially one that is stubbornly resistant to improvement or change.
3. often hard•core (härd'kôr', -kōr') A form of exceptionally harsh punk rock.
Adj
1. Intensely loyal; die-hard: a hard-core secessionist; a hard-core golfer.
2. Stubbornly resistant to improvement or change: hard-core poverty.
3. Extremely graphic or explicit: hard-core pornography.

Mass-Market (from Wikipedia)
The mass market is a general business term describing the largest group of consumers for a specified industry product. It is the opposite extreme of the term niche market.
Personally I don’t see anything hardcore about the BG series, as I see BG as the end of the hardcore crpg era and an attempt to capitalize on the mass-market since the most time-consuming activity of the game—combat—was ridiculously easy, repetitive, thoughtless, and followed the endless hordes of enemies filler model still used today to appeal to the mass-market. But, if we assume that somehow Dr. Ray and the interviewer both believe the BG series are hardcore games because they don’t believe or agree with the actual definition of hardcore and like to use it willy-nilly where it cannot apply in any sensible way, we can use the BG series as a base for the stated hardcoreness of the later offerings, including DA.

Do all Bioware games after the BG series have combat which is ridiculously easy, repetitive, thoughtless, that follows the endless hordes of enemies filler model to appeal to the mass-market? Yes indeed. So, Bioware games are just as hardcore as always if you define hardcore as BG as an example. So, since hardcore is a meaningless term in this situation since it bears no connection to its actual definition it’s hard to base any argument on the word hardcore, regardless of who said what about it when, since we know it was always used incorrectly.

We can also look at the core of what Bioware provides with a Bioware title and see find if we can see any deviation on design philosophy. I think bioware is intensely loyal to their design philosophy in regards to NPC interaction and wanting to include a good story, as well as being very stubborn in resisting or improving combat. So it comes down to taste and preferences. For me, if combat is going to suck and be inconceivably easy make it faster, less time-consuming, and have more player involvement. JA and ME included this, Kotor and the BG did not. So I like JA and ME the most out of all Bioware titles. I’m guessing DArtagen feels differently.

That is where marketing and market-speak comes it: its function to be awareness, manipulation of taste and preferences, and to create demand where there is none. Market-speak by its very nature is disingenuous. Do you know the brain accepts all information as being true when the brain first decodes it. Market-speak was made to exploit this. It would be nice for a company which includes such anti-capitalist undertones to its games content to be more honest and transparent.

If we take our first assumption that Dr. Ray understands the definitions of the terms he uses, a more honest answer would be, “I don’t think we ever made a true hardcore game, we make top quality rpgs. We would rather make a game that millions of people believe is fun and get hours of enjoyment out of than a hardcore game thousands of people agree was uncompromising and exclusive. We can make very high budget AAA titles that appeal to a very broad audience, and we do. And we do this by staying true to core principles, in every single one of our titles from BG to DA, such as accessible combat, great npc-interaction, immersing the player in a great story, in a quality game with top-notch and cutting-edge graphics. People know what to expect from a Bioware title. And we have been improving, refining, and adding more and more value to all of our core principles since BG.”

I know market-speak that is truly disingenuous makes me angry. Why would I want to give my money to people blatantly lying to me on purpose? Or that get offended when people see through the lies and then try and justify them. I like it when companies treat their potential customers as adults and speak to them openly, honestly, and candidly as adults. There is always an honest way to market a product, and that never is saying conflicting things to different audiences or segments.
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March 14th, 2009, 16:35
Common, a game that requires 60 to 80 hours of dedicated play can be played only by a hardcore player.
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March 14th, 2009, 16:35
Well, it seems my definition of hardcore differs quite a bit from the one above this post.

To me, and I honestly believe this is how it's commonly perceived, hardcore simply means that greater effort is required on the part of the player. Combat difficulty is but one aspect, but it's certainly not just the difficulty of combat - but the complexity and wealth of options during combat. Beyond that, we have all the other features of whatever game we're talking about - be it the story depth, NPC interaction, loot system, character development system, and so on and so forth.

Baldur's Gate is not, by any means, the most hardcore game in existence - but in terms of pure gameplay mechanics it's MILES ahead of Jade Empire and Mass Effect. Personally, I found combat quite challenging in Baldur's Gate - especially since it was non-linear and allowed for relative free roaming, meaning you could very easily stumble upon significant challenges before you were ready for them.

That - in itself - is just another aspect of how Baldur's Gate is hardcore and the later games are NOT, because there's no way to stumble upon that kind of challenge in JE/ME - because everything is scaled to match your party.

A very common misconception is that casual or "mass market" HAS to be a negative, and that's not what I'm saying. It's a negative - to me - because I'm a hardcore gamer, but there's no inherent value in being like that.

It's about enthusiasm, basically, and gamers like me are generally more enthusiastic because it's our passion and not just a pass-time, and this means we're willing to dedicate more resources to get a complete experience. That doesn't mean we're better or superior in any way, it simply means we're hardcore and not casual. That kind of player is now a tiny minority - and Bioware has very obviously shifted their focus away from trying to please us, to trying to please the mass market. Not surprising, not necessarily wrong, but absolutely true.

The sooner they stop denying it, the sooner they don't have to get crap from the likes of me. I detest the dishonesty - NOT the actual abandonment of the hardcore.
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March 14th, 2009, 17:17
I can’t follow your logic. You first say

I honestly believe this is how it's commonly perceived, hardcore simply means that greater effort is required on the part of the player
Then say

It's about enthusiasm, basically, and gamers like me are generally more enthusiastic because it's our passion and not just a pass-time, and this means we're willing to dedicate more resources to get a complete experience. That doesn't mean we're better or superior in any way, it simply means we're hardcore and not casual.
If people can define and redefine what hardcore means on the fly according to different situations that would nullify your original post and the core of your original argument.

According to your first definition, the only qualifier you provided was games after BG were not free-roaming, so free roaming is the only barrier between hard-core and not hardcore. And greater effort in what? I had to make a greater effort in paying attention to dialogue in ME than I did with any other Bioware game so I could make a response I wanted. I have to make a greater effort in button clicking with JA. I honestly believe combat in all the games was challengeless and retarded. I made a far greater effort creating a working boot disk that got U7 to work on my old 386 than I ever had to, but I don’t think U7 is hardcore in the least.

If no one can agree what hardcore means (and it would have to mean titles that are purposefully exclusive to the masses, and cater to a small and specific segment of the market) we can never have a meaningful discussion about it.

I’m going to pick a genre that I had a problem with. I bought a sub-game, I think it was called Silent Hunter 3, but I’m not sure. I couldn’t even get out of the tuturial/walkthrough area. This game, in my opinion, was hardcore. It was exclusive. You really had to have a desire to really know the ins and outs of sub combat or subs. I really tried, but gave up with frustration. My wife loves the old, non-3d zeldas (up to super nintendo and the GB ones) and easy games like BG: DA, but she was 100% able to play and beat and enjoy PS:T. I tried getting her to play Star Trail and she just couldn’t get it, it was too much for her, too exclusive. Star Trail is hardcore, the IE games are not, never have been, and never will be. The IE games are 100% accessible. Bioware makes accessible games, not exclusive games. What people are calling hardcore is just taste and preferences. What you like and dislike, or give more value to in games that are inclusive to you as a consumer.
Last edited by Unrestigered; March 14th, 2009 at 17:18. Reason: BG:DA showed up with a smiley so i added a space
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